The brilliant criminal mind of Hobbs’ debut, Ghostman (2013), returns to stake his claim to some precious gems—and potentially bigger game.
“I don’t just make problems disappear, I can make anything disappear,” declares Jack, the cool hero of Hobbs’ second novel. As a kind of secret agent for the big-money-heist set, he knows his way around smuggling, killing, and secret identities. All of that comes into play in this hyperactive Macau-set thriller, which turns on a yacht making a delivery of sapphires when a sniper working for Jack’s boss decides to claim the gems for himself—and discovers an “object” on the boat that’s worth millions. In Hobbs’ vision, corruption is endemic to Macau’s culture both above- and underground (much of the action takes place at the Tammany Hall Casino), so Jack’s calculating, I-got-this demeanor makes him the good guy, and Hobbs humanizes him a bit by filling out some of his back story with Angela, his mentor, lover, and “jugmarker” (heist mastermind). As with this book’s predecessor, there are entertaining digressions on Triad gangsters and the mechanics of pickpocketing, safecracking, counterfeiting, and scoring an illegal gun. (More queasily, there are also details on performing emergency eye surgery on yourself.) But this novel lacks the smoothness and energy of its predecessor: Jack takes his time to enter the narrative, the truth of the mysterious “object” on the boat is an underwhelming reveal, and Jack’s affinity for The Odyssey feels less like character depth and more like a gimmicky prompt for third-act speechifying. The closing chapters have plenty of action and gunplay, with hints of more about Jack and Angela’s relationship to come. But this adventure shows that there’s a fine line between a character with a wiped identity and one with a blank personality.
An entertaining romp but from an author who’s done more stylish work.